9 signs of a scam job listing

Find out how Work for Good protects users from fraudulent job listings on our Jobseeker FAQs.

Joyce_ScamUnfortunately, scammers are very happy to take advantage of your interest in earning a salary. Because you provide sensitive personal information when you apply for a job, jobseekers are a gold mine for scammers.

You will find these scams in social media and in e-mail sent to you by people you don't know. You'll also find fake jobs posted on legitimate websites, and also on fake versions of job boards and employer websites. If the opportunity seems "too good to be true," it is probably a scam. Pay attention to what your instincts tell you if something feels "off" about the opportunity.

Before you apply for a job or respond to an email with a copy of your resume, make sure the opportunity doesn't match these criteria.

It's a scam if:

  • "No experience is necessary!"
    The description might seem vague, like a sales pitch, so simple that anyone could do it, or make no sense. No particular skills, experience, or education are required: everyone qualifies. It may use poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

  • The job is very easy to do, and pays very well.
    Although they insist you start as soon as possible, and you will receive a handsome salary, very little time and effort are needed to do the job.

  • A genuine job interview is not required.
    They might ask for a quick interview via text message, email, or an app like Slack – or claim to be so impressed with you that they don't need to talk with you about the job. (This also keeps you from asking any troublesome questions!)

  • They found your resume on a job board you haven’t used in years – or at all.
    This scam usually arrives through email or social media, pitched as a follow-up for your application and claiming they are ready to hire you immediately. It's not your memory failing you: That application didn't happen!

  • The identity of the employer, the recruiter, or both is not clear.
    The description may look real, but there is no clear indication of the employer’s identity – or the employer is well-known (like Amazon), but the only contact is an email address through a service like Gmail, rather than an address associated with a business. Before you apply, be sure to ask for and verify the name of the contact person and the employer.

  • When you check online, you find only job postings or warnings.
    A legitimate business does more than hire: It serves people and seeks potential clients, using a website that shows up in a Google search. An "invisible" website, or no website, is symptomatic of a scam. (And if you find warnings from others, pay attention.)

  • They urgently need to hire you – IMMEDIATELY!
    They know that you are exactly the employee they need (without talking to you or anyone who knows you), and you must begin working for them as soon as possible – preferably today.

  • You must provide very sensitive information before anything else is done.
    Before the interview, or before you’ve finished your research about them, they need your social security number, bank account number, or other financial information in order to pay you. Be particularly cautious if they want to know your birthday (even only the month and day), mother's maiden name, the first school you attended, or other very personal information.

  • You must purchase something from them to get started.
    They want to hire you immediately, but first you must pay them for something: job supplies, special training, or anything else that only they can provide.

And because scammers are getting smarter – and some are harder to recognize than others – you must always protect yourself by taking these three precautions:

  • Keep your birthday a secret. Unless you are a minor, it is illegal for employers in the US to ask your age, so a legitimate employer has no need for it. (Remember that all it takes is a month and day to steal your identity, because the year can be easily guessed.)

  • Do not wire transfer money. One of the most successful scam jobs involves asking people to deposit a check (that eventually bounces), deduct a "commission," and then wire the balance to the scammer.

  • Do not “re-ship” anything. This job (scam) requires that you accept shipments and then re-ship the contents to another location, usually outside the USA. The material you receive is usually stolen, so you are participating in a theft when you re-ship.

  • Do not provide your social security number or bank account number. Until you know that an employer is legitimate and that you will be doing a real job, do not provide your SSN or bank account number. (When in doubt, insist on being paid by check, at least initially.)

Susan P. Joyce is an online job search expert, and the editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Job-Hunt website.

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